RIVER CLUB — If 15-year-old Gabby Murphy had any fear of water or of falling, it dropped to the wayside in moments.
In just a few months, the River Club resident has found a second home at the Ski-A-Rees Water Ski Show Team’s facility on City Island in Sarastoa, where she and her parents, Jeff and Jen Murphy, and siblings — Garret, Griffin and Grady — now spend the bulk of their weekends, practicing on Saturdays and performing on Sunday afternoons.
“When we started in January, I couldn’t ski at all,” Gabby Murphy says. “My first couple of times, I was terrible. Last week, I slalomed for the first time.”
East County neighbors can watch the Murphys and two other River Club families — the Waxlers and the Towes — glide across the water Sundays through May 12, during the Ski-A-Rees show.
But after the show season ends, the performers won’t stop practicing. Instead, they will prepare for a June 29 ski team performance competition in Tampa.
Mike and Debbie Towe and their 13-year-old daughter, Rachel, a student at Nolan Middle School, joined the Ski-A-Rees program in September, at the end of the group’s season.
“All three of us have loved to ski,” Debbie Towe says, noting the family “happened” to see a show and simply got hooked.
Adam Waxler ran into someone who had connections to the Ski-A-Rees show. Intrigued by what he learned, he and his family — wife, Tanya, and son, Levi — made sure to catch the last performance of the 2012 season.
“Levi said, ‘That was amazing; sign me up,’” Adam Waxler said. “I really thought it was going to be us watching Levi (perform), but (we’re involved, too).”
The Murphy family joined Ski-A-Rees the day after the Waxlers.
The families are quick to point out anyone can join Ski-A-Rees, regardless of skiing experience. Families pay a membership fee, of sorts, to participate.
Those dues, plus donations from spectators at shows, pay for the team’s expenses.
“If you can stand up, you can be in the show,” Tanya Waxler says.
Seasoned skiers are sure to teach their less-experienced counterparts how to fall properly, among other tips. And stunts, such as pyramids, are first learned on land, before they are practiced on the water.
“It’s christened by fire,” Tanya Waxler says. “You can’t practice on land forever.”
On his first day of practice, Griffin Murphy, 13, had skied just once. The Ski-A-Rees team put a seasoned skier on either side of him, to help him feel more comfortable as he skidded across the water. Now, he glides with ease.
As skiers improve, they are included in more segments of the Ski-A-Rees show.
All three families — and numerous others from the East County — spend hours each weekend driving to practices, learning tricks and performing for the crowd.
“You get tired, but you don’t get sick of it,” Levi Waxler says, grinning.
All three families also say the Ski-A-Rees program has been a great bonding opportunity for them, because they’ve grown closer as families and as friends.
Plus, they also are able to build relationships with the other skiers, who have become like extended family.
“It’s such a great thing,” Adam Waxler says. “Our kids can’t wait to (be out there all together).”
Gabby Murphy agrees. “I’m sad I didn’t get involved in it sooner.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
Water Ski Show Team Performance
When: 2 p.m. Sundays, through May 12
Where: Behind Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota (See Ski-A-Rees website for directions.)
Info: skiarees.com or 388-4441